My debut novel, Waiting for Dusk, was recently released and I now have time to reflect on how it came to be. As I wrote, my Swedish roots seemed to take hold and scream out to be written into this book. I grew up hearing about my grandmother and grandfather coming to America, separately, and meeting here. My grandmother found a job working as a maid in a mansion where the lady of the house helped her learn English. My grandfather eventually opened a grocery store.
The kids in the family had a running joke that our mothers swore they didn’t know the language until it was Christmas or they wanted to talk about us without us knowing what they were saying. We learned a few words along the way but like all children, we didn’t want a language lesson. Now we wished we paid attention!
My grandmother was famous for baking and my two favorites were something our family called Mimi bread and Mimi biscuits–which was really cinnamon bread and buns. There was nothing like them. She’d always let us eat the dough, have sugar off a spoon and do all those things you mothers wouldn’t let you do.
My sister reminded me of a story our mother loved to tell about our grandmother. She was a shy, conservative person so she could get totally dressed underneath her nightgown, pull it off and be ready for church.
Between kyssa (kisses) and God Jul (Merry Christmas) we were always good flickas (girls) to our grandmother. The smorgasbord was a tradition passed along by the family to this day, minus some of the old staples of lutfisk and herring!
The grandkids never had the privilege of knowing our grandfather but I hope my tribute to him in my book bodes well.
In honor of both of them, I hold my cup of Swedish coffee high in the air, as a toast. Waiting for Dusk is for you both, John and Alfrida Allison.